The “Aging Well” project launched in January 2020 by the Nice University Hospital and supported by several sponsors and partners, aims to invent a model for aging well and the future of health care. In this context, the gerontology teams at Nice University Hospital and the company C2Care have set up a clinical study integrating virtual reality, with personalized immersive content. Reminiscence triggered by virtual reality could have a positive impact on the mood of EHPAD residents with mild to moderate cognitive disorders, common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease and related diseases reduce the quality of life of the patient and often lead to mood disorders (depression, apathy and anxiety disorders). Moreover, the isolation linked to the health crisis has accentuated these disorders. Reminiscence therapy (RT) is part of the psycho-social therapies recommended by the High Authority for Health (HAS, of 2015). Virtual reality therapy is a new approach used in gerontology in various indications (cognitive training, fall prevention, diagnostic assistance). It constitutes an interesting and innovative support thanks to its immersive specificities. Virtual reality can also be used therapeutically to stimulate autobiographical memory in the elderly. This pilot study will allow us to answer the question, “Can virtual reality be useful in EHPAD to reduce mood disorders in residents in mild to moderate stages of illness?”
The Nice University Hospital study includes EHPAD residents in two groups. Each participant benefits from virtual reality exposure sessions. The first group exposes the residents to personalized films based on the salient elements of their life history. The second group offers neutral exhibitions. Residents are randomly assigned to these groups.
The research team hopes that the protocol will
- Improve participants’ mood (quantified by clinical scales)
- To reduce the prescription of psychotropic drugs
- To get positive feedback from residents, care teams and families
- To observe more reminiscences in the personalized video group compared to the neutral group.
If the results of the study are conclusive, the Nice University Hospital and C2Care teams will demonstrate that virtual reality therapy can be considered as a non-drug therapy of choice in routine geriatric care.
For Cassandra Quin, psychologist specialized in gerontology in charge of the Reminiscences and Emotions project: “The interest of this research protocol lies in the personalization of the videos. It is not simply a virtual reality session… We offer a possibility to the residents, in a context of health crisis, to go back to places or memories that they know and have invested emotionally when they can no longer move outside the EHPAD “.
The feedback from the residents is very encouraging, like that of Mrs. J (91 years old) resident at the EHPAD of Cimiez. She mentions the pleasure of being able to participate twice a week in virtual reality sessions. The feeling of loneliness, particularly present during this health crisis, is reduced thanks to the exposure to personalized films. On the subject of virtual reality, Mrs. J emphasizes: “This experience is great! It’s new and I’m very happy to do this with you!”
The clinical study in figures
- Total duration of the study: 15 months
- Duration of the inclusion phase: 12 months
- Duration of participation for a patient: 6 weeks
- Protocol started on December 02, 2020
- Number of inclusions in the EHPAD-USLD of the Cimiez hospital of the CHU of Nice and in the EHPAD Clos de Cimiez on 09/08/2021: 13 residents.
- Minimum age of participants: 65 years or older
- The project plans to include 30 residents
Press release of September 20, 2021